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What are Cold Cuts?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Anyone who's had a sandwich at a deli has likely eaten cold cuts. In fact anyone who sits down to a bologna, salami, turkey or ham sandwich composed of thinly sliced meats is eating them. They are essentially all the sausages, meat loaves, and sometimes even fresh baked meats that are served cold and sliced thin for easy packaging. They’re a principal ingredient in numerous sandwiches, and may also form part of a tray for antipasto. They also make their way into salads like chef salad, and a variety of other dishes.

There’s tremendous variety of cold cuts. In supermarkets, people can purchase pre-sliced deli meats; the usual choices in the US are ham, turkey, roast beef, salami, bologna, and occasionally mortadella. Pre-packaged luncheon meats also come in many varieties. Instead of just ham, people can buy honey ham or turkey ham.

Many prefer to purchase cold cuts straight from a deli, and may get more variety and lower fat choices by doing so. Further, most pre-packaged meats have the highest fat content, and often the greatest amount of sodium. A recent trend in preparing meats like turkey, roast beef, and ham is to feature low nitrate and low sodium fresh baked varieties, instead of meat loaves that are packed with extra chemicals. In addition to being lower in sodium and fat, cold cuts from the deli counter often offer much more in the way of taste variety and flavoring.

In fact Italian delicatessens may feature some of the greatest variety in cold deli meats, since so many deli meats are Italian in origin. A short list of some Italian meats includes:

Of course there are many other cold cuts that are popular in other countries, including ones familiar to Americans like headcheese, liverwurst, and chorizo. Throughout much of Europe people enjoy local varieties of deli meats, just as Americans have favorites. Further, cold cuts that have fewer or no chemicals added are often fairly low in fat, and reasonably good, healthy choices for meals.

People, especially pregnant women and moms of young children, should be aware that pre-sliced cold cuts may have Listeria bacteria. Though most healthy adults withstand a Listeria infection, many doctors recommend that pregnant women and young children not eat luncheon meats unless they are fully heated. Still, Listeria infections from deli meats are relatively rare in the US.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By afterall — On Feb 27, 2011

Cold cuts are one of the big reasons I quit eating meat. They are loaded with fat and salt, even deli varieties. I even just read a study that eating more than the equivalent of three slices of deli meat a day can raise your risk of cancer. No thank you.

By BambooForest — On Feb 26, 2011

Cold cuts are one of the most expensive foods you can buy. When you think about it, you are paying that price for someone to cut your food for you. While I like deli food, particularly cheese and salads, you can save a lot of money buying things like cheese or meat in bulk form and cooking and cutting it yourself.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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